Collateral Support: Awarding Merit🎖and Citing Examples of Excellence in Friendship

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Collateral support is critical in life.

Even the strongest people need good supports in their life. Friendship and being a supportive player in someone else’s life add to others’ lives and health. Research is unequivocal on this. The more helpers we have to lean on, the healthier we will be moving forward.


I have benefited from great friends and friendships during some of the darkest moments in my life. Moments when I wasn’t safe to be on my own, but for lack of a better plan or insight continued independently long after I should have been hospitalized or under direct supervision for safety. While I am not going to recant every instance that I needed additional support or the details of these dark moments, I am here to cite and award merit for the people responsible for looking over and ensuring that I am here today to tell the story.

Until now, I had not given credit to my friends who had witnessed the most and been exposed to the most traumatic times when my disorder was in full bloom.

I was never very healthy, as my mental health was concerned during large stretches of undergraduate school at Binghamton University. While I had some positive times, any chance at experiencing health improvement was absorbed into deep craters of dispair and ongoing setbacks.

Forgoing chronological order, I wanted to present these awards for excellence in friendship in a sequence that highlights each friendship’s contribution to my recovery.

Many of my friends have chosen to leave my personal struggle with mental illness and move on in their life without me. I truly do wish them well in their endeavors. I am here to honor all friends, both past and present, including those that have moved on without me.

Unfortunately, I cannot cite all acts of friendship and overtures of support.

I will do my best to acknowledge the most important events as they unfolded during my illness and recovery, as well as the key players that made those moments possible.

The first award goes to Jonas🥇. I lived with Jonas as an undergraduate in the dorms and off-campus in Binghamton. I am awarding Jonas this first award for his insight into human connections. In short, Jonas is the party responsible for ensuring I was not isolated with my mental illness.

During my most difficult hospitalization at the Binghamton Psychiatric Center (state hospital), when I thought all of my friends had disappeared, graduated, or wrote me and my condition off. Jonas appeared at the gates of my unit in the hospital. Jonas’ decision to visit in the hospital and bring another friend I was afraid of bridging the gap between the bleak final days I spent in the community and discharge.

Jonas set the stage for years of friendship and connections with other people to come. I want to thank you, Jonas, for your courage to be present with a friend who couldn’t be present with himself or others.

The second award goes to Mcdaggot🥈. I also lived with Mr. Mcdaggot as an undergraduate in the dorms and off-campus in Binghamton. I am awarding Mcdaggot this second award for his persistence in being present with me and dedication to preserving my original and chosen character, albeit my symptoms.

When I was first hospitalized, I couldn’t speak cogently due to word salad and other verbal language deficits. Regardless of my speech issues at the time and my paranoia which corrupted my capacity to trust my supports, I was never scared of communicating with Mcdaggot or felt less than on the level of language. Mcdaggot’s disposition, questioning but truth-seeking, made me feel like I could always reach out when I needed support.

Indeed, I was on the phone with Mcdaggot just about every day in the hospital, trying to follow the rabbit hole of my demise in the community and figure out why I decompensated so quickly. I have been very critical of my friend Mcadggot, and in return, I have been graciously awarded the same critical feedback of my own behavior.

This feedback and ongoing daily support and self-examination has been central to my recovery. Recovery never stops, and I thank you, Mcdaggot, for always being there, regardless of the circumstance.

The third award goes to Vito🥉. Vito was another suite and housemate of mine. Vito, like most of my friends, graduated before my illness took full form.

I am awarding Vito the third award because of his uncanny and unwavering ability to explain his interpretation of my unique behavior in the most non-threatening and well-intentioned manner possible. Vito not only brought the re-balancing scales to every avenue of my life he passed through, but he also did so with the spirit of a friend who was never tired of re-discovering the original pull that made the friendship so worthwhile and original.

Indeed, whatever the situation, Vito was adept at creating a safe space for re-introductions with his charm and ability to recall moments of happiness (which included me regardless of my mental status) to a larger entire group and allowing me to experience a bigger world.

Thanks to Vito’s ongoing support and friendship, new moments aren’t saddened with the wayward past, erred grievances aren’t aired all evening, and historical problems don’t become the focus of each gathering. Vito allowed me to continue to celebrate every experience, speaking to the richness and value he places on life and its moments.

 

About the Author

J. Peters

J. Peters is the Editor-in-Chief of Mental Health Affairs.

Award-winning book author and Bold 10 Under ten award recipient J. Peters, LCSW. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mental health therapist and disability rights advocate Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various care systems, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health, or the city's Department of Corrections.

Mr. Peter's battle with Schizophrenia began at New London University in his last semester of college. Discharged from Greater Liberty State Hospital Center in July 2008, Jacque's recovery was swift but not painless and indeed brutal after spending six months there.

He has published several journal articles on recovery and mental health and three books: University on Watch, Small Fingernails, and Wales High School. He is also a board member of the newspaper City Voices. Mr. Peters currently sits on the CAB committee (Consumer Advisory Board) for the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene in NYC and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) as a peer advocate.

Owner of Recovery Now in New York, a private psychotherapy practice, Mr. Peter's approach is rooted in a foundation of evidence-based practices (EBP). Jacques earned a master's degree in Social Work from Binghamton University and worked as a field instructor for master's and bachelor's level students in NYC.

He is blogging daily on his site mentalhealthaffairs.blog, Mr. Peters regularly writes articles relating to his lived experience with a mental health diagnosis.

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